Rep. Jared Huffman’s contentious bill to provide Point Reyes National Seashore ranchers with 20-year leases sailed through the House of Representatives last week with nary a no vote. The bill was met with bristling pushback from the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which issued a statement highlighting the leases’ potential negative impact on the tule elk who populate the pristine peninsula. “The House of Representatives rammed through legislation today that would allow hunting or eviction of native tule elk” from the park, says CBD spokesman Jeff Miller. “This shortsighted bill endangers hundreds of elk while handing control of irreplaceable coastal open space over to private interests.” Huffman gets lots of cred in the environmental community for his eco-sensitive legislative emphasis; he’s the second-ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and told the Pac Sun a couple of months ago that his abiding ambition is to eventually chair that committee.
The leases will keep Pt. Reyes ranchers a part of California’s robust agriculture-and-ranching sector and make good on a handshake promise made by former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to protect the legacy ranchers as the Drakes Bay Oyster Company was being evicted from the park several years ago.
Among other non-Huffmanesque qualities, Bishop called for the elimination of the Endangered Species Act, while munching on a proverbial elk-burger. Point Reyes National Seashore is the only federal park in the land that hosts a population of tule elk. Indeed, Huffman’s office sent out a bunch of press releases last week, including an eco-friendly push to get House Speaker Paul Ryan to reauthorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which is set to expire and which, as Huffman notes, “has helped preserve public lands in my district and across the country, and provided outdoor recreation opportunities for generations of Americans.”
Meanwhile, the California Farm Bureau Federation and the Western Growers met in Sacramento on Oct. 2 to rap about issues near and dear to the state’s agricultural sector: water, immigration, trade, pestilence, etc. The state reports that ranchers and farmers in the state last year posted $50.1 billion in cash receipts, which accounts for about 13 percent of all national production in the farming-and-ranching sector.
Ticket to Tide
State Sen. Mike McGuire’s been a reliable advocate for the state’s fishermen and a proponent of reform in the way fisheries are managed—he’s called for more flexibility and “real time” management of seasonal landings—and last week Gov. Brown signed a McGuire bill that sets out to streamline the tedious and time-consuming filing of paper “fish tickets” by commercial anglers. The current California law authorizes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to accept the fish tickets—the official nomenclature is “fish landing receipts”—twice a month, in paper form only, and submitted via the U.S. mail. That’s a hassle. McGuire’s bill, SB 269, paves the way for the DFW to accept electronic fish tickets from the fleet and move away from a process he describes as burdensome, inefficient and antiquated, and which “prevents a shift to more real-time management of fisheries—which is critically needed.”
As of next year, transit employees in bus, train or light-rail operations will be required to undergo a minimum of 20 minutes in human-trafficking training, thanks to a bill sponsored by San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra and signed by Gov. Brown last week. Kalra’s bill, AB 2034, was modeled on a 2015 program implemented at the Santa Clara County Valley Transit Authority. The training was cited by bus driver Tim Watson when he encountered a child-abduction in process while on the job. California is known to lead the nation on numerous fronts, whether it’s medical cannabis, money-bail reform or carbon-emissions legislation. Alas, it also leads the nation in reported cases of human trafficking. In 2016, there were 1,331 reported cases, most of them sex trafficking cases; 147 were labor trafficking cases; another 50 or so involved sex-and-labor trafficking. Foul stuff. “Many human trafficking victims are hidden in plain sight along the state’s transportation routes,” says Kalra’s office in a statement. Jeanne Belding, communications specialist with the SMART train, says the railroad’s totally onboard with the law. “Safety is our top priority, and we will certainly comply with this new legislation. Our safety team will take the lead internally to determine what additional efforts may be needed and work to make that happen in conjunction with the new law.”
Thanks to Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, Gov. Brown signed a bill last week that sets out to protect the privacy of hotel guests and private-bus passengers. The California Trust Act, SB 1194, was prompted after hotel workers in Washington and Arizona disclosed the personal information of guests to federal immigration officials, leading to arrests and deportation. Motel 6 was sued by the state of Washington after it was revealed that paranoid xenophobes employed by the budget chain had released personal information of more than 9,000 guests. The American Civil Liberties Union of California sponsored SB 1194. Brown also signed a bill last week sponsored by San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu that will allow immigrants who file crime-victim reports or who seek to represent the interests of their children in court proceedings, can do so anonymously. It’s a particularly acute issue in California, says Chiu in a statement, given that minors with undocumented parents represent 12 percent of schoolchildren in the state.
Jarvis Jay Masters has a new potential advocate for his freedom in Oprah Winfrey. The condemned Buddhist-author has been on San Quentin’s death row for decades and claims he is innocent of the capital crime that landed him there. His jailhouse books have been embraced by American Buddhist Pema Chödrön, and last week the Campaign to Free Jarvis Masters reported that Winfrey had sent a letter of support to Masters’ legal team, asking what she could do to help get the word out about his case. Winfrey first heard of Masters through Chödrön, who shared copies of Masters’ books with the billionaire superstar. Chödrön also wrote a fresh letter in support of Masters’ release from prison, on Sept. 22. She’s known Masters for 25 years and writes, “I can say without exaggerating that he is one of the finest, most ethical [and] compassionate men that I have ever met.”
Cal Fire Call for Grants
This week, the region remembers the fires that tore through the region beginning on the evening of Oct. 8, 2017, and our sister publication to the north, the Bohemian, has devoted its entire issue to reflecting on the anniversary and charting a what’s-next course. Marin’s had a couple of brushes with the flames this year—Black Mountain, Samuel Taylor State Park—and this week Cal Fire announced that $155 million is available for forest health programs and fire prevention programs. The grant programs, says Cal Fire in a release, are part of the California Climate investments, the statewide program that uses cap-and-trade dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions along with goosing the state economy and improving the public’s health—and the environmental health of the state. Earlier this year, Gov. Brown pushed out a forest-management executive order which also helped lay the groundwork for this round of grants.